The US has suspended a work visa issued to an Israeli national who boarded a flight from Newark to Tel Aviv on Thursday without notifying anyone that he had tested positive for COVID-19, an Israeli official told The Times of Israel on Saturday evening.
The official also said the Health Ministry plans to file a police complaint against him.
A security official confirmed to The Times of Israel that the man is a Kashrut supervisor from the ultra-Orthodox settlement of Beitar Illit. A suspended visa would no longer allow the man to work in the US.
“This is one of the gravest incidents we have seen,” a source in the Health Ministry told Channel 12.
The man had boarded a United Airlines UA90 flight to Israel on Thursday without notifying the crew that he was a confirmed COVID-19 carrier. His family called Israeli authorities while he was en route to Tel Aviv to notify them that he had tested positive for the disease, according to the official.
The man was tested for the virus last week but flew to the US anyway. While there, he was notified that his results had come back positive. He could not get treatment in the US due to a lack of health insurance and decided to return to Israel, according to the Channel 12 report.
Upon landing on Friday, he was taken to a separate isolation hotel than the other 38 passengers on the plane, which was just over 10 percent full. While the Health Ministry has not had enough equipment to test every individual who enters the country — despite an initial declaration from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this month that the government would do so — a decision was made to test the passengers on the United Airlines flight due to the “special circumstances,” the security official told the Times of Israel.
Passengers have been told they’d be tested twice during their stay at the isolation hotel. The plane was subsequently disinfected.
On April 12, the cabinet approved emergency ordinances requiring all people arriving in Israel from overseas to be housed at state-run quarantine hotels upon entry to the country. All arrivals will be housed there for 14 days to ensure they are not infected with the coronavirus.
The new measure came after it became clear that incoming passengers to Israel were not all being quarantined despite Netanyahu’s orders to do so earlier this month, and that arrivals on numerous flights were being allowed to enter the country and go home, sometimes via taxi, without being required to enter state-overseen quarantine or even having their temperatures checked.